Scam artists are contacting local business owners by email and phone, pretending to be affiliated with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the CARES Act.
While these loans have been the lifeline for many businesses and their employees, the scams can result in even greater losses and financial peril, according to a news release from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
“These paycheck protection loans are a key part to our economic recovery to assist hard working Arkansas businesses and their employees,” Rutledge said. “But, it is shameful and illegal to pose as a government entity to provide false and deceptive services to businesses that are trying to use the paycheck protection loan to survive.”
Scam artists look for ways to turn a business’s or consumer’s cash into their own. Often, government-assistance programs like the PPP provide an obvious and easy target. Scammers use these governmental initiatives by pretending to be an SBA-authorized lender or similar loan program by telephone or email. In email, scammers will impersonate legitimate websites and use email addresses by changing one or two letters in the name. By telephone, scammers sometimes utilize illegal robocalls as a way to reach business owners and consumers. In both situations, scam businesses are seeking upfront payment of fees, according to the release.
Rutledge has identified tips for Arkansans to use when contacted by email or phone regarding a paycheck protection loan:
• If someone gets an email that looks like it is from the SBA or their bank, they shouldn’t click on any links. Instead, they should go directly to the organization’s website for information;
• The government will never ask people to pay up front and it will not call to ask for their Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers;
• Be cautious about companies that offer to expedite or facilitate the ability to get PPP loans. If a consumer is considering using an online provider or lender, they should stick with those they already know and trust;
• People should be wary of companies they’ve never heard of or that call or send emails out of the blue; and
• Check the spelling of email and website addresses, as scammers frequently utilize addresses that appear similar to legitimate ones in order to deceive.
For more information, or if people suspect a PPP government-assistance scam, they should contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at 800-482-8982 or oag@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.